Burma currently suffers under one of the worst governments in the world. Over the course of the past year, the world has watched in horror as the military dictators ordered the army to shoot down peaceful demonstrators, including monks, in the streets of Rangoon. People around the world struggled to get word from inside Burma when the military government tried to close down all communications and rounded up the demonstrators in nighttime raids. And, the world stood aghast while this military junta refused desperately needed aid for its people when they were devastated by a cyclone.
The people of Burma have been living under repressive military rule for almost fifty years, but they have never accepted this fate. They have struggled for their freedom, both with arms and with words, and they continue to do so. The democracy movement has come to realize that peace for Burma will require a constitutional arrangement that can guarantee freedom and equality to all of Burma's people. The women of Burma have been active in all aspects of the democracy movement, including the turn to constitutionalism, and have worked to assure that the constitutional settlement will include meaningful guarantees of women's equality. This chapter describes the history of constitutionalism in Burma and women's role in that history. It then turns to the current constitutional processes, both within the military government and in the democracy movement. Next, the chapter briefly explains the sources of women's inequality in Burma and the barriers to women's empowerment.